Akon claims charities don’t work in Africa: ‘It just holds the people down longer’

The singer says for-profit businesses create a more sustainable way of boosting the economy 

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Akon believes Africa’s economy will be built up by introducing profit-making businesses and employment opportunities for Africans, claiming charities "don't really work".

The “Smack that Singer”, who grew up in Kaolack, southern Senegal, launched the Akon Lighting Africa (ALA) initiative to bring electricity to parts of rural Africa last year.

An estimated 600 million people are still living in rural communities in the country without access to electricity in their homes, while 3.5 million Africans die each year using harmful pollutants or building fires to create light. 

Akon co-founded ALA with Thione Nianga, a mentor and consultant also from Senegal and Samba Bathily, an entrepreneur and philanthropist from Mali. 

ALA will use solar energy to bring electricity to households and looks to African graduates from Akon’s Solar Academy in Bamako, Mali, to develop technical solutions for generating solar power. The Academy is due to open in November. 

The renewable energy initiative will install 100,000 street lamps and provide 200,000 home solar electric systems, which will also include devices that can charge smart phones and tablets. 

It will also create jobs, with African trained staff managing and delivering for-profit projects, in turn producing a more long-term solution to bolstering the economy. 

“Personally, I don’t think that charities in Africa really work,” he told The Guardian. “I think it just holds the people down longer than it should. I think the only way to build Africa is to build for-profit businesses that create opportunities and jobs for the people locally. 

“That’s why with Akon Lighting Africa we decided to take a for-profit approach. Ultimately, it’s providing empowerment to local people so they can start developing their own economies.”